Has Pakistan Achieved Herd Immunity Against COVID19?
How widespread are coronavirus infections and vaccinations in Pakistan? Has Pakistan achieved herd immunity or close to achieving it? The latest IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) report on Pakistan (dated August 19, 2021) claims that "about 81% of the population have been infected, and about 65% are immune to the Delta variant". It says that the "cases and deaths are declining in Pakistan, but the situation remains fragile".
The report defines two types of coronavirus variants: escape and non-escape. The escape variants include Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1) and Delta (India) variants while non-escape variants are the original ancestral virus and Alpha (UK) variant. The report projects Pakistan reaching 75% to 90% immunity to various COVID19 variants through a combination of infections and vaccinations by the end of 2021.
|Immunity to COVID Variants in Pakistan. Source: IHME|
The IHME August 19 COVID19 results briefing on Pakistan also warns: "If mobility increases and mask wearing declines as cases are declining (people let down their guard), cases could surge again". Here is the summary of the IHME report:
"Cases and deaths are declining in Pakistan, but the situation remains fragile. We estimate that about 81% of the population have been infected, and about 65% are immune to the Delta variant (accounting for cross-variant protection). If mobility increases and mask wearing declines as cases are declining (people let down their guard), cases could surge again."
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"Most of us have been infected naturally and this produces robust immunity which lasts years. There is evidence that immunity gained from natural infection would last a lifetime. I hope immunity from vaccination also lasts that long."
Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil categorically ruled out the need for booster doses (of COVID vaccine).
Dubai: Pakistan’s economy has remained largely resilient to COVID-19 with policy response to the pandemic has limiting economic contraction and the country is poised for a 4 per cent GDP growth in the financial year 2021- 22, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF).
“The authorities have deployed a comprehensive set of policy responses that have helped to limit the contraction in real GDP to 0.5 per cent in FY 2019/20. The crisis-mitigating measures included emergency health spending, a food security programme, temporary tax deferrals, subsidized loans to house-holds, and deferrals of loan payments,” said Garbis Iradian, Chief Economist, MENA, IIF.
Monetary policy remains accommodative as inflationary pressures have eased in recent months. The policy rate remained unchanged at 7 per cent from July 2020 to August 2021 and supported the recovery. Urban core inflation remained broadly stable at 6.9 per cent in July 2021 (yoy) as compared with headline inflation of 8.7 per cent, which was driven by the upward adjustment in electricity tariffs in the context of higher global oil prices
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) recently noted that the recent price pressures were “largely supply-driven and transient” and expects average CPI inflation to decline to slightly below 8 per cent in FY 2021/22 as compared with 10.7 per cent in FY 2019/20.
Improving external position
The external position has strengthened supported by the continued surge in worker’s remittances. The deterioration in the trade deficit, on the back of the sharp increase in imports, has more than offset by the continued surge in workers’ remittances.
Remittances increased by 29 per cent in FY 2020-21 driven by both domestic and international factors. Domestically, the authorities reduced the threshold for eligible transactions from $200 to $100 under the Reimbursement of Telegraphic Transfer (TT) Charges Scheme, promoted usage of formal and digital channels, and restricted cross border travel in the wake of COVID-19.
Internationally, fiscal stimulus in developed and emerging economies enabled Pakistanis living abroad to send more money home. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, USA, and the UK are the main source of remittance inflows.
“The current account deficit narrowed from by one percent-age points of GDP to 0.7 per cent of GDP in fiscal year 2020/21. Net capital inflows were again well above the current account deficit, leading to a substantial increase in official reserves to the equivalent of 3.3 months of import coverage, the highest since 2016,” said Iradian.
Pakistan’s public finances have improved substantially. The narrowing of the deficit in FY 2020/21 to 7.1 per cent of GDP was supported by continued recovery in tax revenues and prudent spending, which fell by 2 per cent in real terms. The budget for the FY 2021/22 envisages further narrowing of the overall fiscal deficit to 6.3 per cent of GDP, supported by revenue-enhancing reforms and further expenditure rationalization. Public debt, the IIF expects will remain elevated at 88 per cent of GDP by June 2022.
Sustained GDP growth hinges on further progress in re-forming the economy.
The current gross investment to GDP ratio remains low at around 15 per cent of GDP. Experience from most emerging and developing economies show that raising growth to at least 5 per cent would require much higher investment to GDP ratio.
The IIF has noted that security concerns pose a downside risk following the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.
National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) chief Asad Umar announced earlier in the day that cities with a slow pace of vaccination as well as unvaccinated individuals will be imposed with higher restrictions.
He said in a tweet, “The only way out of the Covid pandemic is to get a high percentage of citizens vaccinated."
The NCOC chief added, “Therefore as part of the strategy to reward citizens and cities which vaccinate, there will be higher restrictions on cities with a low level of vaccination and on citizens who are not vaccinated.”
“We have set the target of vaccinating at least 70 million people in the country by December 01, 2021 and we are moving fast to achieving the target,” said Umar later in a press conference along with PM’s aide on Health Dr Faisal Sultan in Islamabad.
Dr Faisal said before vaccine availability main focus was on restrictions, while “now we are gradually shifting our strategic focus towards vaccination”.
He said children are super-spreaders of the virus that’s why it had been decided to open vaccination for children above 12 years of age.
Meanwhile, 52 more deaths were reported due to Covid-19 and at least 1,560 people contracted the virus in the country over the last 24 hours.
According to the NCOC statistics, 48,836 tests were conducted yesterday and the positivity ratio remained 3.9 per cent.
Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
2.18 billion 11
92.26 million 21
804.78 million 12
87.74 million 22
385.59 million 13
82.41 million 23
149.88 million 15
69.09 million 25
124.65 million 16
55.51 million 26
105.67 million 17
55.06 million 27
105.11 million 18
48.83 million 28
95.27 million 19
44.49 million 29
93.00 million 20
42.00 million 30